Those who are grieving often remark that they would like to SKIP over all holidays, skip the month of December and emerge on January 2nd. The absence of a loved one is palpable during the season of family-centered activities and feelings of acute grief are heightened. Providing comfort, hope and support is a priceless gift to grieving friends.

Consider these tips:

1. Be there. Your presence is the most valuable thing you can give. Invite them into your home or to participate in your celebrations. Allow them to freely accept or refuse.

2. Actively listen. Sit near your grieving friend. Hold their hand, give a hug, pass a tissue and cry with them. Talk if your friend wants to talk. Keep silent if your friend prefers silence.

3. Be sensitive to verbal and non-verbal cues. Become informed of normal grief reactions and observe how they are affecting your friend’s ability to cope. Remember that grief often robs people of their energy.

4. Give private time to your friend, but never let them feel like they are alone. Feeling alone increases feelings of emptiness and despair.

5. Be patient. Everyone grieves at their own pace. Allow your friend to retell the story of the death and memories of the past.

6. Be helpful with practical matters. Run errands. Bring food to the home. Help with household and holiday chores. Address cards, wrap gifts or mail packages.

7. Be real. Share your own grieving experiences but use good judgment. Share that which offers hope and survival. Do not belittle your friend’s grief.

8. Use good judgment in how long to visit. Grieving friends will be grateful you are there, but not comfortable asking you to leave.

9. Offer hope. Hold on to the thought that although loved ones are no longer physically with us they will always remain in our hearts.

Friendships are a gift. Be honored to be included in your bereaved friend’s journey. But be careful. Be aware if your own needs and your grief triggers. To provide compassion to others, we must first be compassionate towards ourselves.

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